FVH now on Twitter!!!

October 11, 2009

No. Not really. While many are going out of their way to broaden their sphere of influence for business and personal reasons via social networking tools such as facebook, Twitter, linkedin, myspace and more, I’m working my way off the grid. I counted 161 social networking sites listed on wikipedia.org today, which is clearly not a comprehensive list as they somehow missed baristaexchange. Despite the great values offered by these technologies, I have come to appreciate communicating and interacting IN PERSON a great deal. I’m careful to not be too critical of something I’m unfamiliar with, however I’m content being ignorant. That being said, this post was done from my phone

If you’re in the Seattle area the interview I did on Wed will air today at 2:00 p.m.  If you’re not in Seattle or your catching this after the fact it will be a downloadable podcast at their site:


or go directly here

The Burke Museum in Seattle is kicking off this weekend an exhibit titled “Coffee: The World In Your Cup”.  To my knowledge, this is the first of it’s kind in North America!  I had the privilege of making an introduction to the press (about 20-30 people) and speaking about the relevance and value of this exhibit to the coffee industry on Wednesday.  I will also be lecturing on Saturday the 24th along with David Griswold founder of Sustainable Harvest in Portland and Max Savishinsky the director of UW Exploration Seminar Study Abroad Programs.  In the afternoon I’ll do a brief tasting.  I’m thinking I’ll sample roast a few micro lots, maybe some vacuum packed maragogype and peaberry.  I’ll brew them each in both chemex and eva solo, so attendees can taste a clean cup as well as one with some artificial body for those who may be disappointed in such a light roast hoping for a less flavorful and bolder taste.

photography by Gabriel Rodriguez

photography by Gabriel Rodriguez


This has been a collaborative effort on behalf of many of the staff at the Burke as well as many from the coffee industry.  You’ll find burlap sacks hung up on the wall over 25 feet wide and close to 20 feet high.  There is a pretty good spread of marks that are mostly mill and export marks, but some import and even roaster marks from atlas, intelli, stumptown, tonys and many more.  While I was there a few hours I didn’t get more than a glance at it, but did notice someone submitted our bag!!!  And it was stuffed separately next to a big poster with Ted Lingles tasters wheel and some other text with a title – “The Perfect Cup”.

While Starbucks was not on board at first they eventually came around and were more than supportive and collaborative.  They just couldn’t not be a part of it as it is in their back yard and they have paved the way for the early development of specialty coffee.


Before leaving I got to talking and met a journalist who is also a Q grader.  Not knowing who he was I asked, so what do you do in coffee or where do you work aside from being a jounalist?  (As curiosity is getting the best of me.)  His response was “Nothing – outside of journalism, I’m not a professional in the coffee industry.”  It turns out the Miles Small is an information sponge and is editor/owner of COFFEE TALK,which has been around for 22 years!!!


While the Burke is not a place where coffee professionals will go to learn a lot of content, it is fun to soak up the details as they’ve done a fantastic job of creating a social space among coffee displays that give some idea what coffee looks like from seed to cup.  So for anyone who has not been to origin this beats watching any video and hopefully will compel you to finally make that first, or 41st trip to origin.  There is a small depulper, patio with coffee drying and even a display of what the corner of a fermentation tank or washing tank may look like with fresh wet pergamino.

And for anyone who has any interest at all in coffee, it’s history or culture it is a great place to just watch the screen as pictures cycle through.  Many of the photos used on the home page’s flash as well as in other places on the website, in the exhibit on the walls and in posters were taken by Gabe Rodriguez at FVH.  His photography continues to amaze me even as I go back and take another look at pictures I’ve already seen many times.  Here is a link to some of these pictures… if you look around you’ll find many more.

We are putting together a 2009 calendar as we did 3-4 years ago and it will be composed 100% of Gabe’s photos.  While it does not tell the complete seed to cup story and include a great picture of my wife driving one of our old Land Cruiser pick ups, the images speak for them self and are very engaging.  It’s kind of ridiculous actually how much raw detail is each of these pictures.

I also did an interview on KUOW Public Radio with Jeremy Richards that may be aired Jan 23 in the afternoon.  I will post a link if I find one later as well as posting about Saturday.  The interview was a Q&A as well as a walk around and talk in the museum as we soaked it all in ending with a tasting.  Major Cohen was serving pressed Bella Vista – Tres Rios and Nathan Warner the head roaster at Fidalgo Bay was pouring fresh pressed Selvanica into ceramic, which had great acidity and sweetness.

The exhibit will be around for about 6 months and if you are not in the pacific northwest, check back on the museum website later this year as this exhibit will hit the road for 3 years!!!


Don’t miss it!


Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up

Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up


We calculate that we may begin the “pepena” as early as December 15 or 22.  Pepena is what we call an initial picking where we prep the plant as much as possible for a uniform maturation.  Not only on each coffee plant but uniformity from one coffee plant to another so harvest can be done in multiple efficient waves.  The activity of pepena is simply picking what is ripe early.

This activity helps send maximum nutrient to developing ripe fruit as opposed to maintaining an already ripe fruit on the tree that may otherwise naturally begin it’s course of fermentation.  Think of a large family where the oldest kids are ready to be financially independent and move out on their own allowing some more breathing space for those still at home.  In coffee this space is important.

There is a fine line between over feeding and starving.  There is a time for feasting, and in order for a slow and complex development there is also a time and season for pacing yourself at a slow and steady rate to get through the dry season.

This dry season coupled with soil type and elevation directly correlate with acidity.  Having unexpected rain towards the end of a dry season can begin to mute the intensity of the acidity.  As a result a more sporadic harvest doesn’t have to be, but often leads to more under and over ripes being harvested.  Then depending on the following steps of processing this will have a significant and negative impact either on quality and or quantity of exportable coffee.  Some choose high QC standards and realize a smaller yield towards export and others attempt to retain their volume, but are capped on the premium they may get based on quality.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Often the biggest factor in this decision is market conditions.  Lets say the C is over 150, than for many it is all about quantity, if the C is below 100 then it quality becomes a stronger consideration for some.  The logic is why spend more money on labor on a product that may have a cost to produce that may be above what it is worth.  This is a VERY REAL and common predicament.   As you can see if you’re striving for the best quality possible as a producer you have tough decisions in any market.  Coffee is the one commodity that tends to confusing to economists.  It sometimes SEEMS so simple, but it isn’t.  When the price is high, everybody seems to be buying it and it’s quickly scarce, when the price is low, no one wants it.  Go figure.

A large farm will produce enough through their pepena that it is actually moved all the way through processing and it is exported.  So if you are a broker, this is what you’re getting when your supplier tells you this first shipment is from the “first picking”.  Of course it’s not the tastiest coffee!  This is something we don’t even bother wet milling other than we do like to have a test run on the depulpers before entering the formal harvest which will begin mid end January 2009.  That being said, every coffee has a home, and home should be a place where you are content and comfortable.  This does not look the same for everyone.  So be careful not to judge another’s “home”.

If you are going to be at SCAE this year be sure to pay a visit to The Coffee Collective.  We have the privilege of a time of sharing in an intimate setting… their cafe and roastery this next week.

This year at SCAE 2008 Copenhagen there will be 6 competitions!  Yes, count them.  6!  I believe these efforts are doing a fantastic job of bridging the gap between coffee professionals and one of the most important links in the coffee chain.  The consumer.

I will be competing in the World Cup Tasting Championship representing the U.S. mostly to scout it out to develop such a competition in the U.S. in 2009 most likely at SCAA.  I became U.S. Cup Tasting Champion the same way I got my Guatemalan drivers license.  Lets just say it has nothing to do with merit.

Yes we love it when friends connect. Noe Castro (on the left) will be working up with the folks at Barefoot all of February and I understand possibly at Ritual or LaMill in March. Some day I’d like to open a coffee bar run exclusively by foreign visiting baristas. I hope in a few years that this idea won’t sound so foreign.

Also a big congratulations to the 07-08 Guatemalan Barista Champion – Raúl Rodas, the sponsoring companies

and all of the 30 others who competed

If you’re a barista wondering… “How can I get hooked up like that?” A resource that I think could be useful in such a venture is BARISTAEXCHANGE. You may very well be one of the first to have joined this myspacey type forum. But have you considered that with enough passion, creativity and effort you can probably travel the world or host a barista from any one of dozens of countries.

If you’re excited about the idea but are at a loss for where to start.. if you have any interest in Guatemala you might give Mike in Panajachel a call.

Or if you’re fluent in spanish contact me and I may be able to help you find a good match.